Thousands mourn at funeral of Canadian soldier slain in Ottawa

Tue Oct 28, 2014 5:24pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Scott Malone

HAMILTON Ontario (Reuters) - Thousands of mourners packed a church and lined adjacent streets in industrial Hamilton, Ontario, on Tuesday for the funeral of the soldier shot dead in last week’s attack on the nation’s seat of government.

Corporal Nathan Cirillo, 24, was one of two soldiers killed in a pair of attacks last week that police said were carried out independently by radical recent converts to Islam. The assaults took place as Canada's military was stepping up its involvement in air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper told mourners at the church that Cirillo had inspired and united Canadians. He choked back tears in a rare public display of emotion when addressing Cirillo's five-year-old son.

"May time ease the searing pain of today. And may his son, young Marcus Daniel Cirillo, some day find comfort in the fact that our entire country looks up to his dad with pride, with gratitude with deep abiding respect," Harper said.

Major the Reverend Canon Rob Fead opened the ceremony calling Cirillo "Canada's son". Cirillo's cousin, Jenny Holland, and Lieutenant-Colonel Lawrence Hatfield, who had been his commanding officer, also spoke.

Dressed in ceremonial kilts, white boots and garters, members of Cirillo’s Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders unit took a prominent place in the ceremony, having marched alongside his flag-draped casket through the streets of Hamilton, and then carrying it into the 138-year-old gothic Christ's Church Anglican Cathedral.

The killings shook Canadians and prompted a debate on how the nation's open culture, and particularly the low-key security in its capital city of Ottawa, may need to change. Security services have warned that citizens who adopt extremist views and take up arms against the state pose a "serious" threat.

Cirillo was standing an unarmed, ceremonial watch at the nation's war memorial in Ottawa on Oct. 22 when he was shot dead by a man described as troubled and drug addicted. His attacker then charged into the Parliament building and exchanged fire with security officers not far from a room where Harper was meeting with fellow Conservative lawmakers.   Continued...

Soldiers carry the casket from the church following the funeral service for Cpl. Nathan Cirillo in Hamilton, Ontario October 28, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Blinch